About Us

Directors

Director Lewis

Melissa Lewis, PhD

Bio

I received my doctorate in Health and Social Psychology from North Dakota State University in 2005. I also hold MS and BS degrees in Psychology from Montana State University – Billings. I completed a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington’s Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors in 2007. Prior to joining the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 2018, I was a member of the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington from 2007 to 2017. Throughout my career, I have focused on uncovering why adolescents and young adults engage in health-risk behavior and how we can, in turn, use that knowledge to identify protective and risk factors as well as prevent risk. My scholarly interests and pursuits focus on advancing the understanding of the dual processing nature of decisions to engage in health-risk behaviors and to inform theoretically sound and efficacious alcohol use and related risky sexual behavior interventions among adolescents and young adults. Alcohol use and concomitant risky sexual behavior are public health concerns (in terms of incidence and consequences) that often initiate during adolescence. Adolescents and young adults experience consequences associated with alcohol use and risky sexual behavior; thus, testing models with a focus on health-risk behaviors during adolescence and young adulthood is of critical importance. For many adolescents and young adults, when they begin drinking, they do so in an extreme fashion, with frequent heavy-episodic drinking episodes. Given the clear risks associated with heavy-episodic drinking (e.g., sexual assault, risky sexual behavior, injuries, death), why do so many adolescents and young adults begin or persist in known risky behaviors? What factors place some individuals at greater risk for negative consequences than others? How can we use our knowledge of risk and protective factors in interventions to reduce harm? These are precisely the type of questions my research seeks to answer. My research connects with my value to conduct research that has potential to make a significant impact to public health. I value research and policy that aims to expand prevention and intervention to adolescents and young adults. Our health services need to meet the needs of young adults and incorporate technology to bring preventative interventions to adolescents and young adults, with potential for significant impact on public health. My program of research has been funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, and the Alcohol Beverage Medical Research Foundation.

Director Litt

Dana Litt, PhD

Bio

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems in the School of Public Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. I received my doctorate in Applied Social Psychology from The George Washington University in 2010. And completed a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington’s Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors in 2012. Prior to joining the UNTHSC School of Public Health, I was a member of the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington from 2012 to 2017. The overarching goal of my work is to advance the field in understanding the social and environmental factors that influence health risk behavior decision-making in order to inform theoretically sound and efficacious substance use prevention efforts for adolescents and young adults. Consistent with my overarching interests in the influence of socially based variables on health risk behaviors, my current research aims to address questions related to the utility of including socially-based variables in prevention programming, particularly with respect to social images, social comparison, social norms (both for peers who abstain from alcohol and peers who use alcohol) and social networking sites. In my spare time I volunteer for a local dog rescue and enjoy exploring Fort Worth with my own rescue dog, Teddy.

Affiliate Faculty

Affiliate Faculty Thompson

Erika L. Thompson,
PhD, MPH, CPH

Bio

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems in the School of Public Health at University of North Texas Health Science Center. I received a BHS in Health Science and MPH in Epidemiology from the University of Florida. At the University of South Florida, I received my PhD in Public Health and two graduate certificates in Biostatistics and Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. Prior to joining UNT Health Science Center, I completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship focused on women’s reproductive health at the University of South Florida. My research interests have focused on women’s sexual and reproductive health, including human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and prevention, STI prevention, and contraception. My goal is to bridge my research in women’s sexual and reproductive health with alcohol misuse to study alcohol-related risky sexual behaviors.

Affiliate Faculty Griner Web

Stacey Griner,
PhD, MPH

Bio

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Systems in the School of Public Health at University of North Texas Health Science Center. I received a PhD in Public Health and a graduate certificate in Women and Gender Studies from the University of South Florida. At the University of Florida, I received an MPH with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences, and at St. Petersburg College I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene Education. Broadly, my research focuses on risk behaviors among adolescents and young adults, with most of my research centered on sexual health and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening and prevention. My work combines qualitative and quantitative approaches and is guided by health behavior and implementation science theories. The long-term goal of my work is to translate research findings into innovative, evidence-informed, patient-centered interventions targeting young adults, healthcare providers and community settings.

Affiliate Faculty Zhou Web

Zhengyang Zhou,
PhD

Bio

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. I received a PhD in Biostatistics from the joint program of Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2018. Prior to joining the UNTHSC, I served as a research assistant at the Bioinformatics Lab of UT Southwestern with a focus on statistical genetics. My major research interests are statistical methods development and applications in the areas of human genetics and alcohol research. For human genetics, my methodology work includes detecting gene – environment interactions, controlling for population stratification in genome-wide association studies and developing powerful genetic association tests. I have collaborated for several genome-wide and epigenome-wide studies for complex diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Fuchs’ endothelial corneal dystrophy, and fatty liver disease. For alcohol research, I have examined different estimation approaches for experimental longitudinal data, such as intervention trials, and worked on new methods to account for specific data distributions common in alcohol research, like zero-inflated outcomes for assessing treatment effects from individual trials and for combining data from multiple trials for meta-analysis.

Graduate Students

Graduate Student Cassidy

Cassidy LoParco

Bio

I completed my undergraduate degree from the University of Florida (UF) in Biology.  While at UF I worked under Dr. Robert Leeman conducting research in his alcohol simulated bar laboratory.  My research interests include alcohol and other drug use and how they relate to risky sex and mental health.  While pursing my PhD. at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, I will be conducting research with both Dr. Dana Litt and Dr. Melissa Lewis in their Studying Alcohol and Related Risks (STARR) Laboratory.

Graduate Student Anna Web

Anna Galvin

Bio

I'm Annalynn Galvin, but I go by Anna for short. I'm a first-year PhD student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center's School of Public Health, studying Health Behavior Research. I am also a certified pediatric registered nurse with previous experience at a children's hospital and the Texas Department of State Health Services. I obtained my Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Science in Nursing with the School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Austin. My research interests primarily focus on using mixed-methods research with vulnerable maternal and child populations to improve sexual and reproductive health equity throughout the life course. My husband and I moved to Fort Worth from Austin, Texas, and we have a chocolate lab named Penny Lane and a calico cat named Lucy.

Graduate Student Seamster

Abby Seamster

Bio

I am a current medical student and DO/MPH candidate at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine-UNTHSC. I received my undergraduate degree from Trinity University with a B.S. in neuroscience and psychology. Prior to graduate school, I worked as a medical scribe in the emergency department and psychiatric in-patient settings. My research interests include substance use behavior intervention and prevention, health disparities and substance use, and community-based outreach. More specifically, I am interested in pursuing ways in which prevention and intervention strategies can be optimized to de-stigmatize substance use in the clinical setting to foster positive recovery and treatment experiences for patients.

Staff

Staff Research Assistant Angeles Web

Angeles Astorga

Bio

I am a Research Assistant in Dr. Melissa Lewis’ and Dr. Dana Litt’s Studying Alcohol and Related Risks (STARR) Research Lab. I obtained my B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Counseling at the University of North Texas. As an undergraduate, I was a research assistant in the Culture in Mind Research Collaboratory (CMRC) under the mentorship of Dr. Phia Salter at Texas A&M University. I was also a research assistant and data management coordinator in the Teen Stress and Alcohol Research (St.A.R.) Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Heidemarie Blumenthal at the University of North Texas. Post-graduation, I worked as a Research Specialist at Momentous Institute where they research the intersection of social emotional health and education. My research interests include studying the intersection of mental health and the work place. Specifically, I want to investigate how individuals diagnosed with a mental illness (e.g., anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance-related disorders) function in the work place, the influence of their disorder on their job performance, and the influence of the work environment on their disorder.

Staff Research Assistant Raul

Raul Resendiz Gonzalez

Bio

I am a Research Assistant in Dr. Melissa Lewis’ and Dr. Dana Litt’s Studying Alcohol and Related Risks (STARR) Research Lab. I moved to Fort Worth from Mexico City in 2013 to pursue a college education and I obtained my B.S. in Psychology from Texas Wesleyan University. During my last year as an undergraduate student, I worked under the mentorship of Dr. Jay Brown on two research projects related to self-control. My research focused on measures of temporal discounting, a cognitive proxy for self-control, as related to measures of social discounting, probability discounting, and the cultural variables of individualism and collectivism. Post-graduation, I worked as a Research Assistant at 2M Research, a research firm dedicated to providing research services, program evaluation, and policy analysis to local and federal government agencies.

Travis Walker

Travis Walker

 

Bio

I am a Research Assistant in Dr. Melissa Lewis’ and Dr. Dana Litt’s Studying Alcohol and Related Risks (STARR) Research Lab. While completing my BA in Psychology at Westmont College, I was involved in research examining the effectiveness of situational awareness training for teachers with misbehaving students. My senior research project focused on how a religious conceptual prime and different types of religiosity influence prosocial behavior (behavior meant to benefit members of one’s ingroup). Although the psychology of religion and morality are still of interest to me, my career goal is to become a clinical psychologist. After graduation, I interned at a substance abuse treatment facility in Wyoming, gaining experience in clinical and case management roles. When my internship ended, I joined the STARR lab in search of the research experience needed to continue in clinical psychology.

 

This page was last modified on May 13, 2021